How UK startup IoT Solutions is transforming public services

Squeezed for cash, local authorities across the UK are turning towards technology to help them solve civic problems and improve the management of existing resources. One such project was led by Swanage-based startup IoT Solutions Group which, faced with tipped-over bins spilling waste onto public roads, devised a network of smart sensors that would alert the borough to leaking rubbish.

Founded in 2018 by Emma Mahy and Neal Forse, IoT Solutions Group designed the sensors in a way that provides real-time data for patrol wardens – thus improving environmental conditions and alleviating public risks to health and safety from the refuse.

Other infrastructure solutions from the firm tackle smart parking, waste management and water safety.

In 2019, the UK government’s innovation hub Digital Catapult hosted a local authorities showcase, where organisations – including IoT Solutions Group – were encouraged to identify areas where smart technologies could drive the most regional impact.

“Our initial core products included smart parking sensors to detect and inform on authorised and unauthorised use of resident parking bays and smart bin sensors to detect fill rate,” Emma Mahy, founder and MD at IoT Solutions Group, tells Techworld.

IoT Solutions initially worked with Watford Borough Council to improve the resident experience using smart parking sensors. The sensors have since been rolled out across each of the 6,500 resident parking bays, claims Mahy.

To support this, the startup partnered with RingGo, the cashless parking app, to transfer data from visitor parking permits, providing civil enforcement officers with real-time notifications of parking infringements.

How it works

IoT Solutions claims that it differs from its competition because it always takes into account its clients’ existing technology and network infrastructure before it builds products. Mahy says that this common-sense approach is often overlooked, leading to project failure.

“Many IoT projects fail because this is not achieved,” Mahy says. “It is often the case that devices don’t work with the available network technologies.

“This can be a major challenge, but through our bespoke approach, owned devices and the significant experience in this area we can work to customise devices to work with different connectivity solutions, as well as with clients to expand the network technologies available to them.”

A technical example of this lies in the company’s work with Watford Borough Council, where IoT Solutions is deploying the required LoRaWAN – Long Range Wide Area Network – gateways, a wireless standard that enables IoT devices to communicate over large distances.

“This is only possible by working closely with a client to understand their needs, design a solution and by having the ability to customise the solutions,” she explains. “Unless you have all the component pieces working in complete harmony together, perfectly aligned to the customer’s specific use case, then your system fails to deliver on the promise of IoT.”

The startup has also been working to build an effective LPWAN wireless network for long-range communications at a low bit rate for connected devices, which is essential in order to gather the full benefits of IoT as its low power consumption improves IoT network reliability.

Although this is just one part of a full end-to-end system, other aspects include device/edge processing, data analytics and aggregation.

Mahy addresses the challenges of getting all these components working together cohesively: “Not only is there the cost of managing this complexity, there is also the cost of sourcing all of the component pieces from respective third party vendors, each of which want their respective cost margin.

“The full value chain approach we embrace allows us to provide clients like local authorities, facilities management firms, and insurance companies with end-to-end solutions that actually work together and provide the insight that they need in the way that they need it, without having to commission and link together multiple providers of the component parts.”

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